19th October 2001
My ticket had been issued as Mr J. Ross. I was relieved that they either didn’t notice, or didn’t care at check in. I was also relieved not to have to pay for any excess baggage and immediately regretted being so conservative with the number of books I’d packed. I was prepared to kill time before my flight, but the time sped past. By the time I’d written a quick letter to Amy and a card to Mum and Dad it was time to board.
I was given a windowless window seat. I could just about peer through the window of the row in front of me if I squashed my face up to the tray table. The flight took 5 hours; we left London shortly after 12 and arrived in Newfoundland at about 1:30…work that one out! 3-½ hour time difference. I didn’t even realise that time zones came in denominations of 30 minutes. As we started our descent I squinted down at the slit of sea below and I became very aware that I would be on that patch of ocean the next day. Even from thousands of feet up I could see that the sea was angry and streaked with cresting waves and white horses.
Newfoundland appeared through a break in the clouds, and a shiver went down my spine; this was the first time I’d crossed the Atlantic! I saw pine trees and conifers everywhere, broken only by the bright orange and red autumnal colours of deciduous trees. There was a scattering of colourful houses, it was all new to my eyes.
When we landed we had to wait for an eternity to disembark because of high winds. When we were finally allowed off, more noticeable than the wind was the biting cold and the crisp, clean taste to the air.
Immigration, in the wake of the recent attack on the Twin Towers was excruciatingly slow. The immigration form asked for an address and a date of onward travel, and I didn’t have either. Explaining that I was to join a ship which would be working in international waters and might deposit me back in Canada or perhaps in Europe, didn’t reassure the Immigration Officer much. When eventually they let me through I was glad to see that the others had waited for me outside and we got a taxi to the port.
It felt like we were on a film set. We passed huge trucks, yellow fire hydrants, colourful wood-clad houses, yellow dangly traffic lights and picket fences instead of garden walls.
The Kommandor Amalie was a bright orange fisheries patrol ship, and our temporary home. We went on board to find the cook, George. We’d been told that George would show us the ropes. We found George in the Galley sweating over a huge pan. He was a short chap, but what he lacked in height he made up for in girth and as broad as his girth was, it wasn’t as broad as his Glaswegian accent. He muttered something indecipherable and I looked blankly back at him. Luckily among our group was a fellow Scot named Dougie, and he translated for us.
‘You’re in the cabin next to the mess on the port side’.
That evening on our way to the pub. I was down to my last $25 in cash so made a detour to the ATM. I fed it my card and punched in the pin number. I was greeted with those dreaded words made all the worse for their baby poo green colour ‘Insufficient funds available’. My hard earned cash from a summer working with Dad had run dry, and while I was glad it got me this far, It would have been nice to have had one last night on the town.
We went to the ‘Westminster’ bar for a burger. Mine was called ‘Diana’s Dijon mushroom burger’ …Ironic that we are so far away from London and in a pub called the Westminster eating burgers named after a dead princess. After I spent my last dollar I was going to leave, but John and James took pity on me and furnished me with drinks for the rest of the night. I was so grateful and hope I can repay the favour sometime. We decided that we should meet up with the others in our group, and so embarked on a thorough search of the town, having a beer in each pub along the way. We left no stone unturned, even searching in a strip club before eventually finding them in the Duke where we had a few more drinks to slake the thirst we had acquired from our searching. Tired, skint and a bit wobbly on my feet we headed back to the ship.
Cosy in my bunk I could see the dock through the porthole. It swooshed around and I was vaguely confused as to whether that was the effect of being on a ship, or the alcohol.
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